I lost a friend today. Not just any friend, but a dynamically important friend. He actually died in early November, but no one called us, his family, to let us know. We found out yesterday. Richard and I have been friends since the early 1970s. We have been “sistuhs” since coming up in the discos during the era of polyester, thumping bass, and champagne splits at gay bars around Sacramento and San Jose. I will miss my friend for so many reasons. Our history is long and always loving.
What makes this so much more difficult is that the series of losses in the last few years of life-long family/friends closest to me, David, Mark, Joe, Miriam, and now Richard, is increasing. These are people that are my brothers and sisters, whether by birth or love. I’ve been so graced to have so many to call my dearest friends in life. Of the friends with whom I’ve stayed consistently close to for more than 35 years, only five remain, Margaret, David, Jeff, Sharon, and Shirley.
My more recent friends, and by that I mean people with whom I’ve been close for 12 to 20 years or more, like Cathy, Sandy, Jeff K., and others are just as vital to my emotional and spiritual well-being. These oldest friends, though, are important in a different way, because now that my family of origin, the three others in the Floyd Glica family, are gone, these friends are the only ones with whom I can share our memories nearly as closely as family. Even my siblings by birth have not known me as long as my oldest friends.
The road grows more challenging without these comrades by my side where I can hear their advice, see their smiles, or hug their warm souls in person. Sometimes, I feel like I will be like my 92-year-old Aunt Mary who talks about being the last one of her friends to remain here to remember. In my selfishness, I don’t want to be the last one standing. The pain, I think, would be unbearable.
I will miss my beloved family and friends forever.
How is it that people born between 1900 and 1940, and tied to us in a direct genealogical lineage can be so very new? That is the art and science of genealogy, I suppose. Names and dates, paperwork and photos. Sometimes, question marks are the most specific items we have about someone. For many years, that is who my great-grandfather, John D’Anna was to me. Now, in 2013, I am just beginning to discover who he is. Because of the generosity of the family who grew knowing him, I am able to see him moving in silent films from the 1950s. I am able to hear more historical information; the real stuff about a real person from living, breathing relatives. It is a powerful experience to say the least.
Until 1997, I didn’t know anything else about John D’Anna other than that he was my great-aunt’s first husband, and the father of my grandmother’s favorite first cousin. After that, I discovered that John was also my grandmother’s father, which made Georgette my grandmother’s sister. It was good news for both of them. For Gam, this was brand new information. For Georgette, it was a lifelong secret about which she could finally discuss. For me, it raised many new questions.
John’s face has always been illusive to me. Always at an angle, or in Black & White. He always was looking down, or very old. Now, John’s face is becoming more familiar and younger. He reminds me more of my cousin, Kelly in some ways. I realize, too, that more than any other branch of my family, my skin color is identical to my great-grandfather’s tone.
I try so hard to integrate this information in all its abundance and importance, but I now this is a slow process.
All yesterday afternoon, I smelled something that had the aroma of a dead mouse. Considering we live a quarter mile from an expanse of fields, it is common for us to hear and even see mice scampering in our house and around our yard. Sometimes, our traps catch them. We then follow our noses to the carcasses, and we have to take them outside to the garbage. This time, however, was different.
The smell permeated the house and I could not pinpoint the source of the malodorous stench. At about 9:30 PM, watching television, something suddenly said, “Go check the stove.” Without thinking I got up, and there on the far right face of the stove was one knob turned slightly to the left. The gas had been on all afternoon in a house with two smokers. Thankfully, we don’t smoke in the house. Thankfully, we regularly keep the doors open to get cross-ventilation and to let Diego, our dog, wander in and out. Thankfully, there was not enough gas escaping through the patio door to cause an explosion when we lit a cigarette on the lanai. Thankfully, we hadn’t closed up the house for bed yet to go to sleep. Thankfully, the three of us didn’t die last night.
What inspired me to check the stove? Not one time during the day had I even considered that what I smelled was gas. David had stopped smelling it completely, which is scary enough to think about. The truth is that if I had not gotten up to check in the kitchen, we could have just as easily closed the patio and bedroom doors to the outside, turned off the lights, and slept with the gas filling our house all night long. We have great neighbors, so I know that when they hadn’t heard or seen us for a couple of days, they would have called the police. Likely, had the cell phone or home phone rung, they wouldn’t have had a question as to where we were; our house may have gone up like a nuclear explosion. David, Diego, and I would have been nothing but a memory.
As often happens to many of us, there was a wee voice that whispered in my ear that pushed the alarm button and sent me to the right place to avoid tragedy. Many parents can relate the experience of “knowing something is wrong with my child.” The experiences have no basis in knowledge, though. They are our intuitive leaps that keep us connected to our loved ones. Perhaps, they are the voices of those who have left our planet who act as our guardian angels protecting us, whispering to us to keep us safe. In this case, it feels like my mother guided me to get out of my comfortable bed to find the source of danger. Her voice alone would get me to do what I did not want to otherwise do.
Some may say that I am being melodramatic in the “what if” contemplation of yesterday’s alternative events. They may be right; however, we read about events just like this in the news. Could this morning have been very different for our family and friends?
The voices we hear, whether we believe that they are our family members from beyond the grave, our astute intuition, or simply our active imagination, are often the source of life-changing opportunities to alter the future. This was just such an example. Once again, I have an opportunity to express my gratitude for another day of loving and living, and that my family continues to be well. I have learned over the years to listen to that small voice and yesterday was a testament to that fact. Without reckoning the reasonability of my actions, I got up to check the stove, and my family is now alive to tell the story.
Once, 30 years ago, my former wife was sleeping in the living room with my children, taking a nap in the middle of a hot day with the air conditioning running. I arrived home from work to an horrific smell in the house. For some reason, I immediately recognized the smell as gas. I went to the kitchen, turned off the stove, and revived my wife and children. They had likely passed out from the gas since my ex-wife has no sense of smell. They awoke feeling “weird.” Within a few weeks, we had completely changed over to all electric appliances.
I believe everything is for a reason, even if it is simply the reason we give it. The purpose I see in this event reminds me that I am still connected with those I love who have gone before me to find their place in the larger Universal order. I recall that I must remain focused on my journey here to serve those who need me. Finally, I must live in gratitude to God for my life, always looking forward, because without warning, it could all just end.
As I begin this blog, my granddaughter has been 18 for an entire day. It seems unlikely that a person 52 could have a legal adult for a grandchild, but those, like me, who started early having a family understand what this day means. I am caught between my chronological age, of being a middle-aged, relatively healthy man, still working in the prime of my life; and that of a grandfather, watching his beloved eldest birth-grandchild graduate high school and go off to college. Most people my age have watched their children, not their grandchildren, go through this phase fairly recently. My own children graduated high school in the mid-to late-1990s.
In my family of birth, my situation is not at all unusual. My maternal grandmother met Mary, her great-great grandchild when she was only 70. Five generations that I, too, will probably see. As it is, in my lifetime, I’ve seen seven generations of my family from my great-great grandfather Lawrence, born in 1881, who was alive when I was born, to my grandchildren.
This is truly a momentous day for Mary, reaching adulthood, healthy, intelligent, educated, and talented. The journey of her life is now in her hands. It was a tough beginning. She was eight weeks premature and almost died. But she is a fighter! Now, here she is ready to take life on her own terms. If she chose to move to Mali to study the culture, Peru to meet her extended family, or Wisconsin to eat cheese, she could. After five children, I wholly understand what that means. It’s not easy, because to me, she remains my Mary Littlebits; but, maybe not as much as I thought she would be by this point. I respect my granddaughter enough to know she can handle the choices ahead of her.
She calls me Dziadzia, just like her mother called my father, and I called my grandfather. The Polish word means Grandpa. I love hearing her call me Dziadz. Few words sound as sweet to me. Perhaps especially from my first grandbaby. I suspect I’m becoming a bit more sentimental as my grandchildren grow up. After all, there are 10 of them. I have a few more times to go. My youngest grandchild is a year old. I’ve never met her before, but in 17 years, I’ll be 69, the same age as my birth father is right now. By that time, Mary will probably have had a child. Who knows?
Now that I have rambled on about my cherished Mary, I will go to sleep, and dream of her happy future.
Happy birthday, dear Mary! Your Dziadzia loves you!
As we approach the new year of 2011, I can’t help but remember my father’s observation as a pharmacist in the 1980s. He said, “We’ve had more changes in the last 50 years in medicine than in all the years prior.” Of course, the changes that transpired in those immediately previous 50 years emerged from the foundation of work by generations of scientists. After all, the first concocted antibiotic wasn’t developed until sulfanilamide and penicillin in the early part of the 20th century. As I contemplate the last 100 years, inspired by the recent loss of my great-uncle Gene at 103, I took a gander at what he had seen in his lifetime.
In the last 10 decades, we’ve seen the Nobel Prize for physics go to Madame Marie Curie (France) for the discovery of the elements, radium and polonium in 1911. 50 years later, in 1961, this same prize was awarded to Robert Hofstadtler (United States) for his determination of the shape and size of atomic nuclei. A mere 10 years ago, in 2001, the award went to Wolfgang Ketterle (Germany), Eric A. Cornell, and Carl E. Wieman (United States), for discovering a new state of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate . Imagine! A new state of matter, theorized by Albert Einstein, but not proved until this group did so. This year, we will see new weights established for the periodic table. We have seen the extinction of animals and diseases and the rise of others.
As we enter 2011, diving into the year 5772 in the Hebrew calendar, 4708 in the Chinese calendar, 1432 in the Islamic calendar, or the Mayan long count of 184.108.40.206.0, our lives have been changed dramatically by many events. We have seen wars and conflicts in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, to name a few. The Berlin Wall has been built and destroyed. Cultural revolutions have fulmugated around the world. We have witnessed the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of an African-American president of the United States.
We have seen unfathomable growth and challenges in the last century including the change in perception between the First World War when little was thought about homosexuals at all to the current day when homosexuals will be allowed to openly serve in the military. We have moved from a time when a Black person couldn’t marry a White person to today when gays are marrying in some states in the U.S. The economy has seen boons and busts throughout the century including the Great Depression in the 1930s. Here are some other interesting tidbits:
Year Fed. Spending  Fed. Debt  Postage  UI Rate 
(In billions) (In billions)
1911 $ .69 $ 0.o $ .02 6.7%
1961 97.72 292.6 .04 5.5%
2001 1,864.00 5,807.o .34 4.8%
2011 3,833.90 1,266.7 .46 9.6%
I suppose with all this reminiscing about our past, the next logical step would be to imagine what will be in our future. I’d rather not. Not because I think things will be worse, but because it won’t serve any purpose. The real question is, where are we now?
On a personal level, I have lost my entire adopted family of origin, but I have found my family of birth. I have encountered family members from seven generations born between 1881 and 2003. I’ve changed careers from working in a pharmacy in the 1970s to being a music educator today. I’ve had the pleasure to see my husband, children, and grandchildren all working toward growing their successes. I have returned to school to complete my education. If my family is a microcosm of America, which it may be, then one can extrapolate that although things have been tough, we have our eyes on making things better. We are stepping back to get a good view of where we are, and taking steps to improve our situation.
January 1, 2011, is, I suspect, a preparatory time toward a major shift in our lives. We, as a family and as a country, are readying ourselves for a giant leap forward. What shape that will take, I don’t know. We are talking about our spirits. We are valuing our children in a more vibrant way. We are demanding a better education for them. We are begging for art and beauty. We are striving for unity. These are all good things that I believe will make us stronger, wiser, and more solid as a national and world community.
I welcome the coming new year with everything it has to bring. Gratitude permeates every fiber of my being as I look forward to the forthcoming 365 days. So, in that gratitude, I say in anticipation of the coming celebration, Happy New Year and welcome to 2011!
 Infoplease.com (2010) List of Nobel Prize winners for Physics. Retrieved from http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0105785.html
 USGovernmentSpending.com (2010) [Data] Retrieved fromhttp://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year2011_0.html
 U.S. Postal Service (2010) News Release: New Rates Retrieved from http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2010/pr10_064.htm
 Forcasts.org (2010) Unemployment figures (Data) Retrieved from http://www.forecasts.org/unemploy.htm
(2010) “Happy New Year 2011” [Photograph] Retrieved from http://win7dl.com
(2010) “Human Arrow” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://ypg-prioryroad.com
(2010) “Marie Curie” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://reich-chemistry.wikispaces.com
When it is cold, people spend more time indoors. As they gather, music seems to play a vital role in their quiet time, celebrations, and family cultures. As Chanukah has passed and Christmas approaches, I’ve thought about this quite a bit. My question is, why is music so important to many of us at this time of year?
Higher level animals make sounds as part of their communication systems. These emanations are warnings, calls to their families and potential mates, and serve as locators. Human beings developed the ability to create organized sounds through speech, and the rhythms became an important part of their communication process as well. There must have been something intensely satisfying to the first humanoids to insist on recreating these sounds.
Take a moment to close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Now, hum a little bit. Do you feel it rumble in your chest, right near your heart? Now, hum your favorite song for a few bars. Are you transported to a higher level of happiness as you do this? Most of us are. These sounds surround our heart, fill our chests, and heighten our minds awareness. They cause our bodies to produce a chemical reaction that gives us pleasure.
When we join together to sing or listen to music, the collective happiness grows exponentially. Our voices, hearts, and ears are working together to unite us and remind us of the precious gifts we have. If we do the same things we did earlier, only together, we will see how much better it can be. Take someone you love, hold them, close your eyes, and hum a song you like together. The intimacy is intense; the joy fulfilling.
During the holidays, we raise our voices together in celebration of God’s promise and His gifts. As the Festival of Lights shows us, we are sustained here on Earth through the miracles of resources we never imagined possible. In Christmas, we find the birth of unimaginable love. In one another, we are reminded of the same gifts.
So, this holiday season, join together to sing or listen to music. Remember the hum of your heart and spirit as the music envelopes you. May God bless you and keep you and your loved ones happy and safe this holiday season and throughout the coming new year.
If I had a deficit in my bank account of $500.00 on the first of the month, and my rent and bills came due totaling $2,000 with no other current options for income, and this is the way it was every month, wouldn’t I be poor? Of course I would be. If I kept borrowing money from family member after family member and never paid them back, what would you say about me then? I think we all know. If I kept telling everyone, “Don’t worry, I’ll pay you back when everything gets better,” but things never got better, people simply wouldn’t believe me any more. Let’s add to this the fact that I have a spouse and small children. They have little food, no phone, no health insurance, no car, let alone car insurance, but I continue to pay $800 every month for an alarm system to protect the little we have left. What would you say about my priorities? I’m sure I would appear to be living in a dream world of idealism and hope with few options for reasonable resolutions to my issues. The only problem is that I don’t see it that way. What can I do then?
Tell the truth. That’s the only option for improvement. I have to sit down with those I love and tell them the truth of the situation. I have to say, “I am in poverty right now and I don’t know what to do. I can’t take care of my family. I think I am completely out of options.” Only then can I figure out what to do. There are always other possibilities for resolution, but they will never appear until we tell the truth.
This is what is happening in America today. We have a deficit that is inordinately larger than our income can handle. Our citizens are in pain and dying because of our inability to care for them. Our country is printing empty money to offset out debts. Legislators are using our national poverty as a hostage to satisfy their personal agendas. The worst part is every single one of them is pointing at someone else as a cause for the problem instead of asking him- or herself, “What can I constructively do to fix this, and with whom?”
Have you ever seen ferral dogs fighting over a small morsel of food? That’s what I see when I watch the legislature act these days. It’s embarrassing to me as a voting American citizen to watch a gaggle of ineffective people strut and caw like a bunch of vultures making tens of thousands of dollars a year talk about what we, without food, electricity, and health care, need. I write to my congresspeople. I write to the president. I write my blogs. It just gets worse. Instead, they hold poor and middle class people hostage for the benefit of the wealthy, claiming income and estate taxes should be handled equitably? Really, ladies and gentlemen? Since when did equity have anything to do with our governmental process or life in the United States of America? We have never seen one day in the over two centuries of our history in which either full equality or equity existed in our history.
So, what’s next? Our president, with ranking members of both parties in both houses of Congress, senior cabinet members, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court must stand before our country and say the following in one voice:
“My fellow citizens of the United States, this message comes too late and after too much damage has been done to our once great country. We have finally recognized that our greed and selfish choices have injured our citizens. We have spent so much time focusing on our personal needs and desires in government that we have forgotten our primary focus and ultimately, our employers – you. Americans on Main Street are the most important considerations we must have. As with the microcosm of our families, if we take care of those we love with responsibility and accountability, act as good neighbors with those around us, and speak directly to any injustice with one voice, we will find our way out of any challenge. If we move with transparency and wise authority, we as a national community will find our way through the muck and mire that has slogged us down in our path toward greatness.
“Today, the bald eagle has feathers missing. Today, Lady Liberty is slouching in shame. Today, we are not great. The one strength we have as a nation is that we understand what hard work means. We understand that we can make a delicious soup out of potatoes. We are not afraid to face our demons. Beginning today, that’s what we have done. We, the leaders of these United States of America have signed a binding, bipartisan pact together to move toward the national ideal of trust, communication, ethics, integrity, and strength. We can only do this with your help…”
From there, the new process begins. From there, the dialogue will include everyone who needs to participate. From there, true hope begins. From there, we rebuild our country. From there, our great eagle soars once again.
As we continue having debates regarding rights, freedoms, and full citizenship for people in same-gender relationships, we may want to conserve our energy and make our discussions more efficient and accurately reflective of every type of relationship.
As I watched Current TV, the channel developed by former vice-president Al Gore, and Illinois senator, Al Franken (D), I heard a woman say that these debates, especially those going toward the U.S. Supreme Court, are made more challenging because the word sex is involved. The word to which she was referring was, “Homosexuality.”
If it’s really an issue, why not use a different word? The Latin word, “homo,” means, “same.” “Hetero,” mean “different.” The Latin root, “amor,” means, “love.”
Homoamorous means two people of the same gender love one another.
Heteroamorous means two people of different genders love one another.
So, why not change the word. It’s not as though we’re using ancient or sacred words to describe our relationships. “Homosexuality” was coined on May 6, 1869 by Karoly Maria Benkert, a 19th Century Hungarian physician, who first broke with traditional thinking when he suggested that people are born homosexual and that it is unchangeable. With that belief as his guide, he fought the Prussian legal code against homosexuality that he described as having “repressive laws and harsh punishments (Conrad and Angel, 2004).”
One would suspect that Dr. Benkert would appreciate this change in lexicon so that we change our focus in this debate from sex to love. John and Frank are not two people in sex. They are two people in love. Deborah and Sheila are not two women who spend their lives sexing each other, they are two women loving each other. This is especially true because homosexuality has been demedicalized in so many ways.
If we’re going to have to have this debate in the first place, let’s speak accurately about the people involved. We are homoamorous people. We are two people of one gender who are in love. Those in opposite gender relationships are heteroamorous.
How complicated can that be? If I were to approach someone and ask them if they’d like a slice of bread, their first question is likely, “What kind is it?” As a people, we love clarity. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are simply not clear enough terms for the breadth of our relationship. Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are clear winners when it comes to describing the relationships with which I am most familiar.
Sexuality is an important, if not a terribly time consuming part of most marriage relationships. It helps motivate our interest in a particular person whose gender is consistent with what we prefer; however, that, too, is not always the case.
Is it unthinkable that two people can have a relationship that is purely emotional in form, without sex, who continue to love one another nonetheless? Ask many people who are of a certain age.
Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are not only options for the terms homosexuality and heterosexuality, they might even be the preferred forms given their more emotionally inclusive qualities.
My mother used to say, when trying to get the direct truth out of me, “Jim, call a spade a spade.” Although I never played bridge, from which this term comes, I knew what she meant. Name something as it is. I now get that message all the more clearly.
2010, Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/homosexuality/
Conrad, P., & Angell, A. (2004). HOMOSEXUALITY AND REMEDICALIZATION. Society, 41(5), 32-39. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.